Of All the Gin Joints…

I watched it again last night…

After all these years, it still hit me as hard as the first time I saw it. Even back then, in the early 1970s, I realized that it was something special. It spoke to me in ways that few other films have before or since.

The connection that I felt the first time I saw it has only gotten stronger over the years. I must have seen it at least 100 times and it never gets old. Rick is still a tough guy, man of the world… Ilsa is still one of the most beautiful women ever..

Although fashion and attitudes have changed since the early 1940s, at the risk of sounding trite, she has a rare, timeless, a truly natural beauty; one that doesn’t need to be camouflaged by makeup. One look at her face, and you can see into her soul. You can see the pain, the love, and the inner turmoil that could destroy her. Makes her want to give  in to whatever. Tired of fighting, yet she must keep on fighting.

Rick is a tough guy. Worldly and cynical on the outside, detached almost to the point of being cold and callous. And yet, he’s not a superhero where everything is perfect. He’s got faults and flaws and cracks in the facade.. lots of them. He might seem bitter, but that’s just the hurt. He doesn’t handle it well.

But he’s real. The more I see it, the more in many ways I identify with Rick’s character. And I think a lot of guys do. Sure, he’s tough, he can take a punch and he can punch back. But he doesn’t always win. He’s been kicked around, but he’s still there. And deep down, he knows what is right.

Sometimes he tries to cover it up and pretend that it’s not there… but eventually his humanity wins.

And Victor… He spends his life fighting evil and never betraying his principals. But he’s also a man of the world. For all his focus on his mission, it sometimes seems like he may be totally unaware of what’s going on around him to the point of naiveté. But he too is a man of the world, and he knows how the world works. Better than most. Nazi concentration camps will do that to you.

“The problems of three little people don’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

If you haven’t figured it out… then you have no right to tell anyone you “love movies”. As far as I’m concerned, Casablanca is a perfect movie. It has terrific acting, direction, writing, and is supremely uplifting.

Casablanca is what movies are supposed to be about. When it was released in 1942, the U.S. had just entered into World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, things were massively confused. Britain had been fighting the Nazis for two years, and London had been decimated by the air war. British troops were forced into a humiliating retreat from the shores of Dunkirk. The Philippines fell quickly to the Japanese.

The country, and the world needed something inspiring.

Casablanca was exactly the inspiration at exactly the right time.

But all that being said, it was, and is, a damned good movie.

I won’t go into the movie itself, as just about everyone has seen it… at least once.

However, the impact it had on me personally, and indeed our entire American culture is still felt to this day.

How many expressions from the movie have become part of our lexicon?

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Round up the usual suspects.

“This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

And contrary to popular belief, Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam.”

He did say “Play it. If she can stand it, I can stand it. Play it, Sam.”

But the scene that, to this day, brings chills and I have to admit, causes my eyes to get a little misty, is when Victor leads everyone in “La Marseilles” to drown out the Nazis. It is, at least to me, one of the most powerful, emotional scenes every filmed.

Fast forward to 2014.

I was visiting my son and daughter in Los Angeles in 2014. My son said he wanted to take us to a museum that was having a special exhibit on film noir. (This was Los Angeles after all!)

As a subset of the exhibition, there was an entire portion devoted to Casablanca, which many film people consider the apex of the entire film noir genre. But what was interesting was how many of the people that worked on the film were actually refugees from Hitler’s Reich.. ironically, including several of the “German” soldiers.

Many of the people in the La Marseilles scene were also refugees, and when you see the tears as they sang… well, that was not acting. In many, if not most cases, they were genuine tears.

With that in mind, watch the scene again, and try not to well up.

The filming of Casablanca represented the craziness and uncertainty of the times. Ronald Reagan was actually considered for the part of Rick. (No, I can’t and refuse to even imagine.)

The story also goes that the writers had not finished it, and as one scene was being filmed, the next was being written. No one even had any idea how it was going to end until it ended.

On a personal level, the first time I saw the film, I had just broken up with someone. Or, to be more precise, she broke up with me. And being a “tough guy” myself, it was no big deal… at least to the outside world.

Then I saw Casablanca, and here’s this tough guy completely falling apart. No one, and I mean no one, does broken-hearted like Rick Blaine. Sitting there in the dark with an almost empty bottle… That was absolutely heart-rending.

I was doing the same thing, more or less. And so did most of the guys I knew at one time or another. But I doubt that anyone would admit it. Bogie was an “every guy”.

Not that it made things any better, but at least I didn’t feel like I was the only one in the world who that happened to. Of course, as life went on, it would happen on more than one occasion. But looking back now, I felt like I dodged a bullet. Things worked out for me, and I never did find out what happened to her. I heard rumors about a divinity student? Irony!!

But be that as it may…

Casablanca is a movie I never get tired of. There are few movies that have ever affected my that way. The Grapes of Wrath, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Bogie again.) Certainly, nothing in the last 25 plus years.

There have been some good and some great movies in that time, many of which I really, really loved. But they didn’t affect me the same way.

Maybe Casablanca and the other two movies also represented a different world, where life made more sense. Maybe because they were in black and white and did not use explicit sex and violence they challenged my intellect more. I had to imagine instead of having it force-fed.

It’s not that I’m prudish or anything, but to me, it seems that most explicit sex and violence means writers’ block. The writers ran out of steam, so in order to keep the audience engaged, blow something up… or have some sort of bizarre, explicit sex scene…  or better yet, combine the two.

They say that the greatest sex organ is the one between your ears. The most erotic scene in any movie, in my opinion, was the scene in Casablanca where Ilsa comes to see Rick late at night.

Nothing remotely explicit was shown, yet the next morning, you knew what happened. And it happened in your mind. It was up to you to decide what went on. Maybe they stayed up and discussed the World Series, if that is your bent. Probably not.

But that’s the beauty of it. It’s whatever you want. What ever turns you on, as it were. You’re not fed body parts in outrageous contortions, doing things you never knew humans were capable of… Makes you feel kind of inadequate, doesn’t it?

I watched Casablanca last night, and I have no doubt that I will watch it again. Many, many more times.

Here’s looking at  you, kid.

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Act Naturally

Once again, I have to begin this post by apologizing for not being very current with this blog. It’s not out of laziness or lack of interest, but the last several months have been extremely busy, between working, the Holidays, and some family matters.

The Holidays are over, the family matters are stabilized, so that leaves work.

For the last two years, as most of you are aware, I’ve been working in the film and tv industry as a background actor… or extra, as most people like to think of it. But I can assure you that there is much, much more to it than standing around to fill out a scene.

There is actually a bit of real acting involved, especially the closer you appear to the principals (main actors, “stars” – although that word is NEVER used.) Even if you don’t have dialog, you still have to make the scene look believable, either through action/reaction, facial expressions, interaction with other actors, or more often, all of the above.

It’s very often hard work, for long, long hours. When you are booked for a job, be it TV, movies or commercials, you are told to assume that you will be on the set for a minimum of 12 hours. Sometimes, TV is less, but 12 hours is about average. I have worked many longer days… Probably the most exhausting project was last year, when I did a shoot at the Georgia Dome for six days out of seven, ranging from about 13 hours to 17 hours. All for not much more than minimum wage. Hardly glamorous or lucrative.

On the other hand, however, I have never had so much fun for so long as working in this area. Any recognition is strictly by friends and family. Although that is often reward enough.

This Christmas season, I was fortunate to appear in a made-for-tv movie about Dolly Parton’s childhood, called “Coat of Many Colors”. It was one of the most fun projects I was ever associated with. In the movie, I was supposed to be a local church member in 1955 rural Tennessee.WP_20150902_08_08_56_Pro

The set itself was on a farm about 40 miles east of Atlanta. The family who owned the farm, several years ago realized the potential that the movie industry was going to have locally, and began searching the Southeast for old cabins, farm outbuildings, even an old country church.

The farm has been used a set for a number of movies and tv shows. WP_20150902_08_19_11_ProCertainly a wise investment there.

The movie was shown on NBC in early December, and the repeated Christmas night. I was visiting my parents over Christmas, and was able to watch the movie with my mother. She saw me, in the church, singing hymns (!!!!) at least a half dozen times, and each time would get excited and say “There you are again!”

That certainly made everything worthwhile.WP_20150902_08_15_25_Pro

But just to keep me in my place, as families do, my sister who had also seen the movie, said that it was a sight she never imagined to see… me in a church singing gospel songs. But then she had to add, “And I told Keith (her husband), I guarantee you that he doesn’t know any of the words!”

She was right!

Although I was involved in several other projects in the Fall, mostly a single day of work, I managed to get a recurring role on TV series, as a detective. As an aside, I have a number of family members who are in law enforcement; a brother who is a retired Arlington County, VA detective, a sister-in-law who is the Police Chief of Falls Church, VA, a nephew who is a 911 dispatcher, another nephew who works for NCIS, a nephew by marriage who is a homicide detective in Norfolk, and a niece who works for a company that trains police and government agents in undercover work.

So, as you can imagine, I am not looking forward to the critiques.

“Hey, real detectives don’t do that.”

Although just to annoy them, I told them that we always get propped with donuts and coffee.

One of the nice things about being on that show, aside from a great production company and crew, was the fact that there was a great deal of consistency. I played the same role every time, so I was able to mentally develop a character and maintain it through the season.

Taken with Lumia Selfie

And, it was nice to go to the same location all the time.

We shot from October through last week, averaging about three days a week for me. Some weeks were more, some weeks I didn’t work at all.

But I was in every episode, sometimes featured prominently, sometimes just in the background. The novelty of being onscreen wears off quickly, especially if you are on the same set week after week. Then your focus becomes during your part to make the show better.

The show itself, “Powers”, is based on a popular comic book where, in an alternate world, some people are born with super powers, while others don’t have them. And, naturally, not everyone with super powers is a good guy, so the Powers Division of LAPD is responsible for arresting and otherwise dealing with the Powers.

OK, it sounds a bit ridiculous, and last season was a bit of a stretch. However, this year, the writing is much better.. more adult-oriented, at least story-wise. SONY, who is behind the show, poured a ton of money into the show this year, between sets, larger scenes (one riot scene included 300 background), and higher profile guest stars.

As of this writing, the show is only available on the PlayStation Network, or as a download from the show’s website or from iTunes. However, last season was just released on Crackle, and http://www.crackle.com, so hopefully this season will as well.

I have been fortunate to work on some really wonderful projects, my favorite of which was “In Dubious Battle”, based on the John Steinbeck book of the same name. I got to work IMG_4217scenes with Robert Duvall, James Franco, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ed Harris and Sam Shepard. I was actually playing multiple roles in that, a thug, a deputy, a fruit picker.

That was an incredible project to work on. In addition to the incredible talent, I have been a Steinbeck fan since high school, and have always been fascinated with the Depression era.IMG_4158-1

It was a real treat to work on that film, and it was an honor to work with such great talent.

Unfortunately, no word yet on a release date. Hopefully, it doesn’t get buried or go straight to DVD.

It has all been interesting up to this point.

However, this week, I worked on a set that was incredibly emotional for all involved, including the crew. It had a very sobering effect on everyone there, and the emotion that flowed was overwhelming. Several times, there was not a dry eye, my own included.

I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), so I am not at liberty to discuss the movie, the title, the actors, the scene or much else, really.

I am able to say that it is about a couple of soldiers returning from Iraq in 2008, and I suspect that PTSD is a major theme in the movie.

The scene we did was to take place in a Kansas VA Hospital, and other than the half-dozen or so doctors, nurses, and staff, the rest of the 130-plus background were real veterans.

When we submitted, we had to tell them when we served, and, if possible, send a photo of ourselves back then, in uniform.

Veterans of all ages and physical conditions on the set. There were a number of people I knew, that I never knew were veterans. And many of them had no idea that I was a veteran. But everyone had something, a hat, a piece of uniform, dogtags…

Some of the older guys were not in such great health. And I looked around at some of these “old men”, and realized that hey, you’re one of them. Most of them were not a lot older than me.

It was truly heartbreaking to see some of the younger kids, missing limbs, eyes, heads crisscrossed with scars… I spent a lot of time choking back tears.

There was one old woman, in her 90s, in a wheelchair, who was a Marine vet from World War II. At one point in the day, someone yelled at her “Hey, Marine!” and when she turned around, he gave a salute.

The grin on her face was absolutely priceless. Cheers! More misty eyes.

The director spoke to us before hand, and began to introduce a special guest on the set, a young vey with a shaved head, that was just covered with long ugly scars. His left side was almost immobile. The director got maybe three words out before he broke down in tears. He didn’t just get misty-eyed, he was full-blown sobbing, and had to stop several times.

When he finished, he was not the only one.

Although many of us had not seen combat overseas, so many people don’t realize that every single service member accepts the fact that at any time they can be asked to die. Things can change on a dime.

No one wants to die, so you are trained to look after each other. Your life depends on your buddies, as theirs does yours, and that creates a bond that non-veterans can rarely understand. Your politics don’t matter… staying alive does.

All veteran’s, male and female, despite their or your political persuasion, are your brothers and sisters.
And that feeling was very evident on the set. Some vets will only discuss things with other vets, because they feel they are the only one who understand.

I felt so bad for some of the older guys who were Vietnam vets. They never got a homecoming, and were treated horribly, often like they were personally responsible for every bad thing that happened.

I was even called a “baby-killer” on at least two occasions, even though I never went to SE Asia. The fact that I was in a B52 unit was enough for some people. In fact, on one occasion, visiting some friends in Miami in the mid-70s, I was called a baby-killer by a “friend” of a friend of my wife’s. He also made sure to let me know that he was morally superior because he was a draft-dodger.

I didn’t really care if he was a draft-dodger or not, that was his personal business… his own karma, so to speak. If he truly believed his moral beliefs wouldn’t allow him to serve, that’s fine. Not my business. Or, he could always do what my friend Randy did, and become a medic too.

But don’t gloat that you are a better person because you didn’t serve. (On top of that, when this guy found out where we were staying, he had the nerve to ask if he could crash at our place so he could get an early start the next morning, walking up and down the beach, selling his homemade jewelry to the old ladies on the beach. What a guy!)

Again, that’s neither here nor there. But back to the movie.

There was a lot of interaction between the vets, just as if we were in a real VA hospital setting. And unknown to us, the director had a guy walking around with a steady cam, filming all this interaction so that when the film is out, this scene won’t look like the real thing… it is the real thing.

I had worked on a movie with one of the principals before. Due to the NDA, I can’t discuss who or what, but suffice to say that the last time, this particular actor was an enormous jerk. A real whiny diva, who thought he was God’s gift to women and spent a great deal of time trying to flirt with all the young women on the set.

This time, however, he was very subdued. I think he was probably intimidated playing a veteran surrounded by 130 plus real veterans. At one point, a Navy vet that I had been talking to, walked over to the actor, and gently put him on the spot, by asking if, after today, he might consider visiting VA Hospitals. He hemmed and hawed for a second, but eventually agreed.

As an aside, one of my major crushes from the 70s has been doing tremendous work with the VA hospitals. Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, has spent hundreds of hours visiting the hospitals, and often makes Mix-tapes to give to the soldiers. She has been honored over and over, rightly so, for her generosity and her commitment to veterans.

As I said, there was a lot of emotion that day. People telling their stories, listening to each other and telling their own stories. The director himself, was going up to as many people as he could and talking to them, and insisting that this movie was about them.
I truly believe that. He really wanted to do more than to just make a movie.

As a veteran myself (USAF), as the brother of three other veterans (two Army, one Navy), as the son of a Navy veteran, and the song-in-law of an Army Air Force veteran… who spent the last four months of World War II in a Nazi POW camp, I can truly, truly appreciate that.

The day ended with a lot of hugs, a lot of tears, and people that you met for the first time calling you “brother.” I’m still very emotional thinking about it, and probably glad you can’t see me at the moment.

The crew treated all of the vets like royalty.. More than one of my friends with whom I worked over the last two years, said they have never been treated so well.
At the end of the day, the director stood at the door, and shook everyone’s hand, and had something to say to every one of the vets. That is highly unusual.

I am, of course, looking forward to this movie coming out. One of my brothers is retired Army, living in Kansas, where this particular VA hospital is supposed to be. He is a combat vet, from the Gulf War, and has had recurring problems from Gulf War Syndrome… which the Pentagon has yet to acknowledge is a real ailment. So he will really enjoy, if that is the right word, watching the film.
In any case, when the film gets closer to being released, I will post all the information. (Even if I hadn’t signed the NDA, I have no idea what the movie’s final title will be. It’s currently operating under a working title, which I also will not discuss.)

I’m already booked for another movie late next week. This is the first one that I actually had to audition for, and it involved movement synchronized to music, in this case, eating in a restaurant. The trick is, that you have to look natural, as if you’re not synchronized to the music. That is much, much harder than it sounds, and honestly, I never expected to pass the audition. Particularly after being told repeatedly, “This is NOT a dance audition”, yet two women danced through the entire audition, distracting everyone, including the director and choreographer who were trying to evaluate us.

So, it was a very pleasant surprise to get the email that I was booked, and we begin filming at the end of the week. The filming is scheduled to go on through the end of April, although I will only be working a day here and there.

I hope that there will not be as long a gap between this and my next blog post. However, if there is one due to me working, I’ll gladly wait.

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Keep On Truckin’

Well, I finally found a few minutes to jot down some thoughts… for example, is “jot” an appropriate verb for entering characters via a keyboard?

No, actually, I’m writing today to acknowledge a very important, at least to me, anniversary coming up next month. The first week in December will mark 10 years since I’ve had my truck.

That may sound at first, to be somewhat flip or sarcastic, or maybe the intro to a silly joke, especially to those of you who know me well. But in all seriousness, it is very important to me, for a lot of reasons.

I believe that our vehicles are often an extension of ourselves, in that after a while, you maybe unconsciously ascribe certain personality traits to your vehicle. You spend so much time in it, that it almost becomes another being. You learn all its quirks and peculiarities, you learn how it responds in certain situations, and you trust it with your life. That’s a pretty strong basis for a relationship.

Our vehicles often say a lot about who we are. Or at least the image we want to project to the outside world. What kind of image would people who didn’t know me have of me if I drove a late-model BMW rather than a 10-year-old Toyota pickup? Maybe I’m some high-paid executive, probably working on a fourth, and much younger wife, weekends at the Cape, front row seats for the Atlanta Hawks…

We all play that game, whether we admit it or not. And whether or not we know anything about the person. Maybe the car is stolen, but with my “silver fox” hair (puh-leeze!!!), and maybe a LaCoste shirt and dockers, who could imagine that?

But, nah… that’s not me.

My truck is me. Dented and scarred up on the outside, not much to look at. But underneath strong, dependable, steady… ready for whatever heavy-duty action is required. Admittedly, that sounds a bit self-serving, but I prefer to think of myself that way rather than trying to pretend to be something I’m not,and have no desire to be. In other words, wealthy and out to impress others, somewhat arrogant… entitled!

I once dated a girl who named her VW bug Frank. She talked about Frank like he was a real person. If she needed gas, Frank was thirsty. If the VW was dirty, Frank needed a bath. If she couldn’t find her car in a parking lot, Frank was lost.

You know, I can’t even remember her name…But I do remember Frank.

My truck has been through a lot over the years. It’s a magnet for dings and dents. It’s been in at least five different “incidents” that I’m aware of, not counting the several times it’s been hit in parking lots and the other drivers speed off without leaving a note.

My daughter has been involved, at least indirectly, in three of those incidents. I even coined a new verb, my truck was “Adrienned”.

I must say that when you are out of the country and you see a voice mail from your daughter back home, it can be worrisome.. very worrisome. And when said voicemail starts out with ” It wasn’t my fault!, not, “Uh.. Dad.. I have something to tell you”.. No, “It wasn’t may fault.”

In all fairness, fire hydrants do have a nasty habit of jumping out in front of you when you’re backing down a one-way street the wrong way. Happens all the time, right?

In fact, when she first found out that I bought a truck, the first thing she said was “A truck! Great now I can get a kayak!” I bought a truck, so YOU can get a kayak?

But she was young. And at the time, she seemed to be moving every two or three months, so the truck came in handy. In fact, at the time, I realized that as long as she lived in Atlanta, I better hold on to the truck.

During one of the more memorable moves…

She was living alone in a very, very bad part of town. And for Atlanta, that is saying a lot (As a reference for those who know Atlanta, it was on Ponce, near Highland). She finally realized she needed to get out ASAP when she got home one night, and saw a very unsavory looking group of men, buying and smoking crack, while standing in her parking space.

So two days later, as we were moving her…

As I said, this was a very bad part of town, and as we were loading the truck, some pretty sleazy looking characters would come up and offer to help… for money, or course. Or worse.

One or two actually tried grabbing some of the furniture to “help”, and I had to yell at them “I GOT IT!!” and run them off.

Finally, as one last guy approached, I was fed up. I pulled out my cell phone like it had rung, and said very loudly, “Yeah, this is Sgt. Smith from Gwinnett Narcotics. Thanks for returning my call.”

The guy stopped like he ran into a brick wall. spun around on a dime, and skedaddled. Quickly.

But to get back to the truck.

I love it. No two ways about it.

As an unrepentant road dog, nothing makes me happier than a full tank of  gas, a 20 oz. Starbucks, my favorite music and the open road. It’s hard for me to imagine anything as purely joyful.

It was even better when my dog was alive. My 120 pound Golden Retriever, Murphy, loved riding in the truck. Almost as much as eating.

I’d say “Murph, let’s go for a ride!” He would bound down the steps to the garage, and could barely contain himself while he waited for me to open the door. He would jump in the front seat, and we’d be off. I rolled down the window so he could stick his head out. And every once in a while, he’d turn to me with a big grin that said “Hey, Boss, ain’t life grand?”

And on long trips, it was sheer pleasure. We would enjoy the scenery and sing along with the radio.. well, one of us would actually sing, the other would just howl and bark. And it was not always who you’d think.

I’ve always been one of those people who believes that getting there is half the fun… actually, many times, it’s most of the fun. So many times, I get the feeling that I “belong” there, driving, sipping java, listening to the music. It’s almost like being in a bubble. Like I was the only one in the world.

I try at least once a year, to drive up to North Carolina and Virginia to visit family. I love visiting my family, and I could easily fly… but the drive itself is so perfect, it just begs for me to do it. After traveling that stretch of road for over 40 years, I can honestly say that I feel like I know every inch of it. Even so, there are few things that I enjoy more than making that same trip, especially in m truck.

As an aside, just over a year ago, I lost my best friend. We had been friends since 1964, been friends, enemies, roommates, fishing buddies, camping buddies, partners in crime, river pirates, desert rats, mountain goats… We went through marriages, births, deaths, divorces, jobs, bar fights, fights over girlfriends, even some very serious stuff involving the Feds… you name it. We were almost closer than brothers. In fact, we knew things about each other that our own families didn’t know about us.

But one thing we shared most was an intense love of road trips. Any excuse for a road trip. We’d go for backpacking trips, fishing trips, concerts… including a completely bizarre trip to Charlotte in the early 90s. (Sorry, no details. The statute of limitations is still in effect.) Where ever, it didn’t matter. The journey itself was the important thing.

The last time we were together was two years ago.

I was finishing up a visit to his place in Montana, where we had done some wilderness backpacking and a river trip down the Missouri. And now we were driving from Missoula to Great Falls. We had full cups of coffee, great, great music on the stereo, and miles and miles of empty two lane through the rolling hills of South Central Montana. DSC_0392We talked about music, past adventures, old girlfriends, our wives and kids, grandkids… but mostly we just laughed a lot as Montana blew by. Every once in a while, we stopped at a little cowboy cafe for a java refill. But other than that, it was just us and his truck.

It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but in life, it truly is the little things that matter.

That is how I remember him. That’s what I’ll always remember.

And I think about that… a lot… when I’m driving.

Missing him.. missing Murphy.

I love my truck.

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Back in The Saddle Again… Again!

Once again, I am back after a long hiatus… for better or worse!

I have been incredibly busy since my last posting, between working… a lot!… I have been working pretty steadily in movies and tv. I’ve been in a number of different productions this summer, playing everything from a U.S. Senator (two different productions), a 1955 Tennessee hillbilly, a mourner (at least three different times), was killed by Vikings, worked for A T & T, played a Dallas football fan – now THAT was a stretch! – a 1970s airline passenger, and played a party guest.

However, with a few exceptions, don’t look too hard for me, because in most cases, I was either deep background and will be blurred, or my screen time, that part of it which doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor, will be brief.

And then there were family obligations, i.e., weddings and graduations, and a long anticipated, and well worth the wait, trip to the British Isles. All of which are grist for the mill of future postings.

But, again for better or worse, I am back.

In the early 90s, I didn’t exactly spend a lot of time in Utah, but my job at the time required lots of travel, especially to the West and West Coast. So I did spend a lot of time in the Salt Lake City airport, changing planes.

In fact, it was during this time, that I had an epiphany of sorts. The company I was working for was a typical bloodthirsty, soulless American corporation, par for the course at the time. In addition to evidently writing the book on greed, they burned through employees like they were paper, without a care for their physical, emotional, or financial well-being. I actually had one boss who bragged that he managed by creating conflict between his employees.

This was on top of demanding 110% loyalty, and company uber alles esprit de Corp! I had a family to support, so I tried to play the game, but in reality, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even pretend that I cared that much about the company, so much so that I even (horrors!) skipped the monthly “optional” employee appreciation dinners (ass-kissing festival) to spend time with my kids.

I was ” troublemaker”. Someone, a fellow employee, actually took me to task once, saying I had “no company spirit”. Yeah, I’ll cop to that.

I was actually hired because of my expertise with another line of computers. My previous company had been a distributor for ARIX, which has long been relegated to the hardware boneyard, and I was well versed in not just the hardware, but the UNIX operating system as well. So when my first company went belly up… the day I returned from a backpacking trip to Utah… the new company wasted no time in reaching out to me. Literally, hours.

What they wanted from me was to make me a marketing genius as well as product manager for a computer line. Because of my experience with the system, and the large group of customers who relied on me for honest answers (a rarity!), this company assumed that all of those customers would follow me over and sign up with them… despite their reputation for arrogance and bullying customers as well as the competition.

The money was terrific… more than I ever made before… and given inflation, probably more than I’ve made since. I tried to tell them I wasn’t a marketing guy, but they were having none of it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was being used as leverage against IBM to get a better deal as resellers.

“See, we picked up ARIX computers, now, so we get 35% off from them… Give us the same deal or else.”

They had no intention of supporting me. I was just a tool and I knew it.

I hated every second of it. I was miserable, but I felt trapped.

I hated going on the road every two weeks, and getting to the point where I’d have to look out the hotel window to figure out where I even was. Denver? Seattle? San Jose? Tucson? DC? Philadelphia? Las Vegas?

I was forced to spend eight days in Las Vegas for them once, for a big computer show. Now, if you don’t gamble or drink or chase hookers, Las Vegas is the most boring, useless place on the planet. I always thought it was like a high school reunion, in that everyone should go once, just to see what it’s like. After that, don’t bother.

The things that happened to me in Las Vegas would take up a whole separate post. Not that anything bad in the sense that I got in trouble or got injured, or robbed or anything. It was more coming face to face with incredible avarice, and watching people get chewed up and spit out, while others were just plain vulgar in their greed and wastefulness.

I hated Las Vegas, I hated my job, I hated my coworkers who were basically androids.

I was completely burned out. I knew it. And it was getting more and more obvious. My enthusiasm was at an all time low. I was getting surly and sarcastic with a lot of people that probably didn’t deserve it. Though many did!

But I kept lying to myself that things would work out.

So several weeks after the Vegas adventure, I got on plane in Salt Lake City, bound for San Jose. A woman sat down next to me on the plane and started asking me what I did.

I just looked at her, and with a smile said “I lie to people.”

“Excuse me?!?!”

“I lie to people. I try to convince them to buy stuff they don’t need.”

She looked at me for a long couple of seconds… and then burst into laughter.

After that, we had a great time on the way to San Jose (“Do you know the way to San Jose?”… No, but as long as the pilot does, we’re cool!)

I actually lasted three more months in that job. But I knew I was on borrowed time. It didn’t matter though, because it felt so good to say it out loud and get it off my chest. Really as if a weight had just disappeared.

I lost my job, and guess what. The world didn’t end. I was done with that world anyway.

I spent the next several years working in a music store fixing band instruments, being a low-level rock photographer (now THERE is some stories!!), and doing freelance writing, mostly for local publications, sports and music mostly. But I did a really good (and positive) piece on skate parks and teenage skaters and their lifestyle that I was really proud of. And got a great response to it. Not a lot of money, but I enjoyed the feedback from parents who suddenly had their eyes opened about their own kids. They were athletes and not rebels.

And I spent a lot of time with my kids.. and with their friends, during their teenage years. Which was so important, and something I would never trade. And to this day, their friends still enjoy my company… or at least are polite enough to pretend to.

Because I worked in the music store, I got to know lots of musicians, and got to listen to a lot of the music that my kids did. I got to be the “cool” Dad, who not only knew all the music, but took the kids and their friends to concerts. A lot of the other parents tried to act like I was a weirdo… but when their kids wanted to go to a concert or one-day festival, who do you think these parents called to see if I could take their kid and keep an eye on them.

At that point in my life, the kids were driving themselves and really didn’t need me watching over them.

So I reentered the work force, this time, doing what I wanted to do, regardless of the money.

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That’s a Wrap!

I’m baaacckkk….

Let me start off by apologizing for being so quiet as of late.. And setting the record straight.

I have not lost interest, gotten bored with blogging, or have found something better to do with my time… well, not exactly as far as the latter.

I’ve been extremely busy as of late, and that is a very good thing.

In the last six weeks or so, in addition to working on tax returns in my “spare” time, I have been working pretty steadily as a tv/movie extra… or as we like to call ourselves, background actors.

I’ve worked on a half dozen tv shows… most of them not particularly memorable in that I probably won’t watch them to see myself for a tenth of a second. But several were multi-day shoots, so in addition to getting paid, which is always a good thing, I got to work on developing my “acting” chops.

Watching real actors work, and being around other background is always interesting, and I can’t help but pick up some new techniques and tricks. Of course, constantly working helps not only to develop skills, but it keeps you from “atrophying”… or losing some of your edge.

In the past month, I’ve been a hospital visitor, a church goer (no laughing!), a Mormon (see previous), a cool, single Dad, a lawyer, a tourist in the French Quarter, a coffee-guzzling good old boy, and I’ve been killed by Vikings.

I’ve enjoyed every one of these gigs, some more than others, of course. And I certainly look forward to returning to any or all of them if asked or needed.

However, in the last three weeks, I had the extreme privilege of working on the most exciting, most difficult, and absolutely… amazingincrediblewonderfulemotionalintense (insert your own superlative) project that I have ever worked on my brief career in the film/tv industry.

I have been a John Steinbeck fan since my mid-teens. Thanks to my Mom, I “discovered” the “Grapes of Wrath” about the same time I “discovered” Woody Guthrie. I went on to read more Steinbeck, listened to more Woody and which led me to some of his contemporaries.

I really developed a fascination with, to me at least, was a period of American history that was more or less glossed over. There were the stereotypical stories of people jumping out of windows (which incidentally, is mostly myth) or selling apples on the street. My parents grew up in this period, and I began to take an interest in hearing their own stories about the Great Depression, hearing what they had to do to survive.

At the same time, my family moved to California as my Dad got a year assignment at UC Berkeley in 1967. Dad and Mom packed all eight kids into two cars, and we had our own cross-country oddessy, camping all the way. We certainly didn’t have anywhere near the hardships that the Okies experienced in the 30s, but it did create in my young mind, a bond with them.

Some 40 years later, I started working in film and tv. Trying to find jobs by scouring all the casting calls is almost a full-time job in itself.

So when I saw a casting call for John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle”, I was giddy! Full disclosure: As much Steinbeck as I’ve read over the years, this is actually one book that I had never read. Rest assured that it is now in the queue on my Kindle.

When I read further, the following note from Tammy Smith Casting hit me like a sledgehammer:

“BIG HEART” NOTE: This is a movie being done as low budget – every single person working on the movie, including all of actors cast in ALL of the roles, and all of the crew are working on this film for much less than we normally make, as we are all doing this to get this movie made. It’s an amazing script and an important story. Please google search for it and we hope as many of you as possible will want to be a part of it. ALL of the extras are very important in this film, as the story is about the PEOPLE!!!

James Franco was starring and directing this movie as a labor of love, and the crowd of actors that wanted to be a part of this project was astounding! This group was not a bunch of young turks looking for “the career-maker” role; the list included some of the top actors, not only from today, but in my opinion, in the history of Hollywood motion pictures. They all wanted to do it because they believed in the project, and felt it was an important project to be a part of.

As did I…

I submitted to be one of the pickers/strikers. I really, really, really wanted to be a part of this project. I also felt it was an important story and would have done it for gas money.

Among other reasons, I felt an obligation to fight some of the perceptions and misconceptions that some segments try to foist on a gullible public. My brother was union for 30 years before retiring, They not only got him work, but also protected him in the 90’s when the “bosses” tried to save money by hiring $5 an hour, untrained labor to replace the union mechanics. How safe would you feel in an elevator knowing that the person maintaining it may not have any idea how to fix it… or even keep it running properly.

My grandfather later in life was a union truck driver… after he quit school in the fifth grade to work in the mines in Northeastern PA. A dangerous job for anyone, but until the unions got involved, 10 year old boys were disposable.

One of my mother’s cousins went to prison in the ’40s for dynamiting a house during a UMW strike.

I often hear the argument that unions have outlived their usefulness, they are responsible for driving up prices, they are corrupt thugs (yes, so unlike our two major political parties).   My response to driving up prices is that you’re absolutely right. People shouldn’t try to improve their lives or working conditions so that YOU can save a few dollars. After all, you ARE the most important person in the FUCKING UNIVERSE! (Sorry, got carried away there).

In any case, I never heard back, and was very disappointed.

However, two weeks into the project, I got an email from the casting company, asking if I was interested in being a deputy/thug in the movie.

Naturally, the answer was an unqualified “Hell yes!”

On top of that, the idea of being a strikebreaking thug appealed to the cosmic jokester in me. The part was the polar opposite of who I am. My own family even said that they were surprised, because they would have thought I would have been on the other side, given my history and general outlook on life.

My mother went as far as to email me the following; “Shame on you for being a strikebreaker!” She was joking… I think.

But I wanted so much to be a part of the movie, I was willing to do anything. I would have worked for gas money. It was that important to me.

The set, crew, and cast were phenomenal. Everyone associated with the production, it seemed, was there because they wanted to be, and because they believed in it. And the attitude was contagious.

At the risk of sounding trite, everyone brought their “A” game. The background who were pickers and strikers were not just convincing, but they WERE the pickers and strikers. Everyone stayed in character for the entire length of the filming.

Because I signed a non-disclosure agreement, I can’t really discuss anything that happened on the set, other than very general terms. However, I will say that James Franco was a real pleasure to work for as a director. He was very much hands-on, and was able to quickly flip the switch from actor to director and back. He had a way of pulling the best performances out of the entire cast, who, for their part, worked as hard as they could to flesh out Franco’s vision.

Robert Duvall gave a Master Class in acting. His performance in the two scenes that I was privileged to work with him, can only be described as jaw-dropping. Off-camera, he was one of the sweetest, friendliest people I had ever met. But when he went to work, he was a cruel, nasty, heartless sonofabitch. He was not playing a part, he was Bolton, the rich landowner, who delighted in cutting the workers’ pay.

Ed Harris’ performance was just as astounding. He pulled out all the stops as Joy, a somewhat crazed old hobo picker. He was screaming, punching the air, kicking at the ground… It was amazing to watch.

I worked on a scene with Sam Shepard. Sam didn’t utter a single word in the scene, but the look on his face, as a farmer who had been burned out, was so powerful, it literally brought several people to tears. As he walked by, the rest of us spontaneously, removed our hats and looked at the ground. Yes, it was that moving!

During the four different days that I worked this film, I was able to play both a thug as well as a picker.  (See below) And I gave my all for each part. It was really the first time I felt I was really “acting” acting, where I completely became the character,

Migrant

Migrant

and it actually was 1936. The sets were constructed to look like buildings of the period, and with the antique vehicles, and nothing in sight newer than the Depression, it was really not that difficult to convince myself that I was in Depression-era California.

Deputy, thug, strikebreaker

Deputy, thug, strikebreaker

 

The last few days were 15-hour shoots.

And unlike many productions, there was no down-time for either the actors or the background. We worked the entire day, particularly my last day. It was a very physical day, involving diving into the woods to escape a mob, and then later, running from the “labor camp” up a hill. Needless to say, each of these were done multiple times. Add the emotional impact that seemed to affect everyone on the set, it was a very exhausting day.

Farmworker

Farmworker

We did have a break after supper, however, as they were setting up for the last scene. So we were sitting around fires in the camp, and someone broke out a guitar. It got passed around, and we played and sang everything from early John Prine to Pink Floyd (“Wish You Were Here”), to “Friend of the Devil”, and lots of old Rolling Stones.

IMG_4216One of the nice things about being around actors is that few of them have much in the way of inhibitions, so no one was embarrassed about singing in front of the others… although maybe a few (myself!) should have been…

But the scene was straight out of my younger days, with everyone sitting around the campfire, playing guitar and singing with friends. Something I enjoy more than just about anything. It was really like reliving some of the great times I had with friends when I was younger. If I had a choice, I’d take that over fame and fortune any day.

I have worked on a couple of other sets since then… as I said, I’ve been incredibly busy.. and have run into a lot of the same people. I’ve also seen the comments on social media/ Everyone who was involved knew that we were involved in something special, an event that really meant something.

One friend, only half-joking, likened it to Woodstock without the bands. Given the camaraderie that comes from sharing a very physical and emotional experience, it is understandable.

One or two people have gone as far as saying it was life-changing. Personally, I won’t go that far. But maybe when they played the farmworkers, it gave them a chance to experience someone else’s ups and downs and maybe made them think a bit more about their own place in the grand scheme of things. Walking a mile in someone else’s workbooks, so to speak. In that case, I suppose it could be life-changing,

When the filming wrapped last weekend, the background people presented the director, James Franco, with a copy of the Steinbeck book, signed by everyone on the set, as well as an old-fashioned Director’s megaphone, also signed by everyone. He was very touched.

I have never seen that in my short career. It says a lot not just for James Franco, but for the people who worked for him on this “passion project”.

Of all the projects that I have worked on, this was by far, the most rewarding and personally meaningful. Not only was I able to work on a project that I felt deep personal connections to on many, many levels, but I was priveleged to watch real actors, as opposed to so many times when people are just reciting lines. And to share all of it with the incredible group of background artists (and they were indeed artists), will definitely remain a high point in my life.

This is a project that I have been truly proud to be a part of. And even if I end up totally on the cutting room floor, it is one that I will actually go out to see, and will encourage everyone I know to see, if for no other reason than it is a story that needs to be told.

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The Beauty Way, Part 2 – Chaco Canyon

(Note: This is a continuation of a previous post, describing one of the most incredible and wonderful trips of my life. Please refer back to The Beauty Way, Part 1 before reading it.)

If I had any doubts about Chaco Canyon being sacred ground, that certainly dispelled them. Dawn at Chaco was a spiritual experience of it’s own.

Dawn, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Dawn, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

I went back to sleep for another hour or so. My dreams continued, but rather than being disturbing, they were almost inviting.

Syd had already had the coffee going when I finally woke back up and without a word, handed me a mug as I crawled out of the tent.Scan 7

 

There is nothing in the world that satisfies your entire body and soul like the first cup of camp coffee on a cold morning. It makes the world seem right, or as in the Navajo concept of Hozho, peace and balance. Walk in beauty.

Maybe I’m more sensitive to this sort of thing than most, but walking around the campsite and looking at the canyon walls and then turning and looking at the broad valley, I could feel the spirits of “the ancients”. I like to think that I felt what they felt when they would awaken on a cold morning, and greet the sun with prayer, and maybe corn pollen.

At the risk of sounding a little too New Agey, it was completely captivating in a spiritual sense. And I mean that in the true sense of it being an otherworldly experience… or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as being on multiple planes of existence. Being in the moment, being where time and space were not clearly defined. Seeing and understanding. Being one.

I looked down the canyon and could see the ruins. No, that’s not right… I didn’t see the ruins, they called to me and I responded. It was a feeling that I was at a loss to describe.

The road to the ruins, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

The road to the ruins, Chaco Canyon, New Mexicofelt the history and felt the spirit of the canyon. I couldn’t wait to get down there.

I felt the history and felt the spirit of the canyon. I couldn’t wait to get down there.

I have always been interested in the Southwestern U.S. The first time I ever went to that part of the country, I was overcome with an intense knowledge that I was “home”. I knew that I belonged there. Granted, it may have been at least partially due to all the westerns I used to watch as a kid. But it went well beyond that.

When I was in the Air Force, I used some of my G.I. Bill benefits to take some introductory anthropology courses from the University of New Mexico. In the days before computers and “distance learning”, the courses were by mail, so-called “correspondence courses.” It took a lot of dedication and discipline to finish correspondence courses, but to me they were a labor of love. I enjoyed taking them and I enjoyed the “conversations”, by mail naturally, with my instructors.

Ultimately, my plan was once I got out of the service, to enroll at the University of New Mexico and work towards degrees in anthropology and archaeology. In the days before Indiana Jones made it sexy to be an archaeologist, most people thought I was crazy. More than one person “informed” me that I would never make any money. Well, thanks for the tip. I’m a complete moron and it never occurred to me to look into how much money I might make. Ha!

Well, unfortunately, things didn’t quite turn out like I planned. Or as John Lennon so famously said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” But that’s a sordid tale for another day.

Be that as it may…

I have always been and continue to be fascinated by the Southwest, and the people who have called it home for thousands of years. This is true not just in their day to day life, but I find their spiritual beliefs quite interesting and appealing. And after having spent enough time in the area, you can really see how they developed based on the geography, the topography, the weather…

I will probably offend more than a few people, but their spiritual life and beliefs, given the context of their environment, makes a hell of a lot more sense to them than something imported from the Mid-East by way of Europe. However, since I’m not out to change anyone else’s mind, I expect the same respect in return, and won’t follow this line of thinking any further.

But back to Chaco…

We finished breakfast and walked from the campground to the ruins.Scan Every step was not just a step back in time, but it was a step into a completely alternate reality. The closer we got to the the ruins, the stronger the feeling was that, although the people who came before, may have left their physical bodies, their spirits stayed close to home.

As we got closer, the ruins came into view, including the Great Kiva. At one time, Chaco Canyon was home to thousands.. although it is not year clear if this was year round, or just for ceremonial purposes. Or if began as such and later became a full time city… or the reverse of that!

Such are some of the mysteries of Chaco.

Other than those with collapsing walls, most of the ruins were open to walk in and explore. It was eerie to think that I was walking in the same doors at chaco buildings that the Anasazi walked, seeing the same Fajada Butte, looking through the same windows.

The mason workmanship was nothing less than astounding, the way the stones all fit together, and even after nearly a thousand years of abandonment and the elements, many of the buildings were still strong.

We walked for several hours through the city, going into as many of the ruins as we were able to. Most of the time, we were just silent, partially out of reverence, partially overwhelmed by the beauty and intense feelings of history, spirituality, and … Hozho.

We found a trail that climbed up to a ridge where we could get a better view of the landscape and the ruins.

The Grand Kiva

The Grand Kiva

It was actually quite a difficult climb… not technical where we needed ropes and carabiners, but there was a lot of scree and it involved a little bit of scrambling.

But nothing worthwhile is easy.

The view was overwhelming… to see the ruins, the wide, arrow-straight roads emanating from the canyon, and in our mind’s eye, thousands of people in a living environ.

I am still fascinated by the Anasazi people, whole lived in the four corners area until about the 13th century. No one knows for sure why they left the Chaco area… changes in climate possibly, war, sickness. There is plenty of speculation and a lot of clues, including some rather ominous ones, such as evidence of cannibalism. Was this ritualistic, was it the enemy, how long had it been going on, and why?

How was it related to the abandonment?

Many people believe that the Anasazi moved further east to become the ancestors of the Pueblo people. There is also evidence, at least to some, that they moved a bit southwest and became the Hopis. Although this is western science’s view, not seriously taking into account Hopi or Pueblo creation stories.Scan 22

Just as an aside, why is it so easy to believe that a Mid-Eastern God created the earth out of nothing in seven days, but it is so difficult to believe in Spider Woman and the Hopi creation stories. One man’s truth is another man’s fairy tales. Fortunately, this is not a forum for comparative religion.

Syd and I spent several hours at Chaco. It would have been great to have several days to explore and just absorb the ambience.,But, in the end, we decided to move on to our original goal, which was Canyonlands National Park in Utah. We broke down camp, packed up the truck, and were on our way.

But not beforeElmer Smorgasbord we stopped at a coffee shop on the Navajo Reservation, and convinced a flirtatious young Navajo waitress, that we were indeed two crazy billiga’anas.

 

On the way to the Great House

On the way to the Great House

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It’s That Time of Year – No, THAT Time

OK, so we’re into the second week of January, and already a third of the “resolutioners” at my gym have dropped out.

Last Monday, you couldn’t move there were so many people. And most of them looked pretty clueless about what to do, while others seemed to think that sitting on equipment and yapping to a friend would whip them into shape in no time at all.

But yesterday, it was pretty much just the regulars. There were one or two new people… but they at least looked like they knew what they were doing.

Last week, I noticed a new woman had joined. Most of the time, I don’t pay attention enough to really know if someone is new, unless it’s painfully obvious.

This woman was painfully obvious.

She was maybe 55, and had her hair piled in a topknot looking like Madonna in 1983, “cute” bangs and all. She wore cutoff shorts… that were cut off at the place where they don’t call that part of your body legs anymore. Aside from being skin tight.. I mean EXTREMELY skin tight… if you catch my drift… she had the top button unbuttoned. Reminded me of the rodeo groupies that they call “Buckle Bunnies”.

But her top was what grabbed my attention.

Her breasts were… shall we say augmented to the nth degree, and then crammed into a low cut black top that was at least three sizes too small. No old-lady tits for that baby-san. And she spent most of the time thrusting out her bow like a clipper ship, and looking around to see who was paying attention.

Well, yeah, people looked… but no one really cared. That is, other than thinking how ridiculous she looked. She would have looked ridiculous at twenty years younger, but at her age.. Lady, have you no pride?

But she was obviously a one and done… she hasn’t been seen since. Maybe she went someplace where that sort of thing is appreciated.

I don’t understand how people can sign up for a gym because they want to get back in shape, and then quit after a week. Is it “too hard”? Well, you goddamned right it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. Do you think you will magically drop 15 pounds by walking through the door?

Well, that just means I can get back on my schedule.

Maybe some of the newbies were disappointed because this was a real gym where real people work out real hard… as opposed to one of the fashion show places, where everyone wears the right clothes and stands around flirting and making dates for Starbucks.

No.

This place stinks. No, it really stinks. Everyone in there works hard and sweats hard, and it shows, not only how it smells, but how everyone there looks.

There are some really hardcore types there. A number of competitive body builders (not, NOT yours truly), a lot of men and women who look like they may have been college athletes… and they work out like they still are. There are a lot of police and fire fighters there, and some folks from the Naval Air Station. I know of couple of former SEALS that workout there, and because the gym gives a discount to military and veterans, there are a lot of people there by way of Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, this ain’t no foo foo Love Boat place.

But I really like it there. I like the atmosphere, the equipment, and the fact that everyone is pretty serious. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of kidding and goofiness. Two of the biggest guys there are gay, and one time in the locker room, someone commented on that. Someone else looked at him and in typical locker room humor,  said, “Hey, as big as they are, they can fuck anything they want!”

There was one guy there for a while, who lost a foot in Iraq. He used to come out on the floor, carrying several prosthetic feet, and would change his foot, depending on the equipment he was using.

There is a good helping of old-timers there. But even most of them look to be in good shape, maybe former athletes themselves. And as old-timers are prone to do, they are excellent at sandbagging. (“Oh, I’m too old for this shit!”, etc.)

I feel right at home.

And this kind of environment really encourages working out seriously, and setting goals and working through the days when you don’t really feel like being there, or maybe you’re a little tired. Once you get rolling, though, it’s easier to deal with.

My neighbor Motormouth (I have never ever met anyone who can talk so much and say so little!) joined a couple years ago. It was pretty obvious that she was looking for a social club, because I never saw her do anything other than try to get someone’s attention so she could indulge in her passion… gossip!

As soon as she realized that that was not going to happen, she “broke her toe”, and she tried to explain to me that that was why I had not seen her at the gym… like I give a shit! But being the asshole that I am, I had to respond with “What about the other 98% of your body. It’s not broken too, is it?”

No response.

Hey, I was serious. I’ve seen lots of people in there with casts and other injuries. Three years ago, I had a wreck on my bike, and ended up with 13 stitches in my right hand. And you better believe that I was there, bandages and all.

Sorry, but that’s not an excuse.

On the other hand, I’ve always maintained that I do well there because I have two traits.. a high tolerance for physical discomfort (pain!!!), and I’m not smart enough to know when to quit.

Motormouth’s husband, Dirty Harry ( he deserves his own blog post!) also joined a gym a couple years ago. Well, technically his wife joined and he got to participate as part of family membership, provided by her employer. And that’s the only way that cheap sonofabitch would ever find himself in a gym… if someone else paid for it.

Just as a quick glimpse into his character… When I first met Dirty Harry, he introduced himself as a member of an oppressed minority.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” … as if I couldn’t guess.

“I’m a middle-aged white man.”

And a sloppy fat one to boot, lazy bastard…

So back to him joining the gym…

After a couple months, I asked him how the gym was going.

“Oh, I stopped going. You know after two or three weeks, it gets old.”

I smiled and looked him right in the eye and said “Only if you don’t have any self-discipline.”

Yeah, I can be an asshole when I need to be.

Sometimes I’m asked if it’s all discipline, or if there’s a little bit of vanity involved. Well, I have to admit that I enjoy seeing the look on someone’s face when I tell them I’m 63, especially after they’ve pegged me for early 50s. (It happened last week, as a matter of fact!). But that’s not my driving force. It’s a nice perk, but it’s not why I do it.

I’ve been working out since my days in the USAF, and never really gave it up. And during the time when I was drinking… heavily… it was a way for me to even things out… (Isn’t it amazing what you can convince yourself?!?!?)

So, it’s really been a part of my life for over 40 years. And now as I’m getting older, and watching friends, family members, and others getting sick or having serious health problems, it’s more and more of an incentive.

Of course, I realize that there are a lot of things you can’t do anything about. More than one friend has died in the last few years, due to illness.
I don’t have any idea if any of the illnesses were preventable or not. But some of them were at least in part, due to a sedentary lifestyle that was strictly by choice.

You can at least fool yourself into thinking that maybe you can mitigate some of them.

On the other hand, you can work out all your life, live a healthy life style, and really take card of yourself.

And then get run over by a bus.

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